Race Track Not Street Drag Strip Offers Safe Alternative for Street Racers in Calverton

Drivers get ready to race at Race Track Not Street drag strip in Calverton
Drivers get ready to race at Race Track Not Street drag strip in Calverton
Courtesy Race Track Not Street

In just the second year, cars of all kinds lined up to be a part of a drag race at the Race Track Not Street drag strip: a 7,000-foot-long runway located in the Calverton Executive Airpark. The founder of Race Track Not Street, Pete Scalzo, stood up in front of the crowd of racers and spectators standing by the starting line at a race on April 9, the first of the 2022 season.

“We built the track on the side here in 28 days,” Scalzo told the crowd about the 10,000-foot-long runway where the event was originally supposed to take place. “Because the event that was running across the way rained out … they had used their rain date and we set everything up on the runway, and then we had to move to the side. So that happened, believe it or not, last Tuesday. And look what you see.”

This is not Scalzo’s first drag race. He has owned and operated five drag strips.

All kinds of cars show up to race at Race Track Not Street
All kinds of cars show up to race at Race Track Not StreetCourtesy Race Track Not Street

Scalzo can remember when Long Island had its own set of drag strips including a stock-car track and an 1/8-mile track in Islip and a drag strip in Westhampton. Until Race Track Not Street popped up, Long Island did not have a drag strip for 17 years. And many, including an activist group called Long Island Needs a Drag Strip, felt that was a disservice to Long Island’s car enthusiasts. Racers and fans had to go out of state to find a race.

“They had to travel and that was a killer,” Scalzo said.

But even with so much support, delivering a drag strip to Long Islanders has not been easy. Scalzo has met with multiple Town of Riverhead supervisors to present his idea to them. “It was always the same answer,” Scalzo said. “And I always had the same answer: It’s not a sound issue.”

Scalzo and his fellow drag race hobbyists were met with resistance out of concern for noise and the environment. It wasn’t until Town of Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar came into office that the idea of a drag strip in town would be considered. Aguiar and Scalzo can both recall meeting with each other at the height of the pandemic, discussing the idea while wearing masks. He said that Aguiar, at the time, told him that she would give him 15 minutes to pitch the idea.

Race Track Not Street Montecalvo car
Race Track Not StreetCourtesy Race Track Not Street

“I told her what I wanted to do,” Scalzo said. “I told her that there was always the noise (concern). I can guarantee that all cars will have mufflers, and she had the guts, in a middle of an election … we could have been a complete failure, we could have made too much noise and did everything wrong, and it could have cost her election. But she believed in us.”

Aguiar jested on opening day of the drag race season here that she dedicated to the idea to prove the naysayers wrong about no Town of Riverhead supervisor approving a drag race.

“When she came into office, I knew she was different right away on a whole host of issues,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on opening day. “She wasn’t afraid to do things and to get things done. I’ve always said this. It matters who’s in office. … It takes guts, it takes courage to do the right thing. This is the right thing.”

Junior dragster Gabriella, at Race Track Not Street
Junior dragster Gabriella, at Race Track Not StreetCourtesy Race Track Not Street

And a drag strip is important and right for any community, said Scalzo, pointing out that drag strips take drag racers off the streets and highways and into a safe and controlled environment. “Back in the Westhampton Dragway and National Speedway (days), you had the old school guys like myself who love cars,” Scalzo said. “You would build a car and it took a lot of skill. … What’s happening now though is, you have the Dodge Demon, the Hellcat, of course the Corvettes, the Camaro. Those cars are so fast now from the factory that the problem is they are building them so fast — but where are they racing them?”

They are racing on the street.

Corvette driver Nick Derosa at Race Track Not Street
Corvette driver Nick Derosa at Race Track Not StreetCourtesy Race Track Not Street

Providing a drag strip has been proven in Scalzo’s lifetime to curb the practice of illegal street racing. When he opened up a racetrack called Countyline Dragway in Miami, the task force established by Miami-Dade County was quickly dismantled because illegal street racing was no longer a problem.

To add to the benefits of these drag racing events in Calverton, they’re fun, says Scalzo. For $65, Long Islanders can become a race car driver for the day and for $25, spectators can watch the action and enjoy the many food trucks and vendors that set up shop at the event.

Junior dragster at opening day of Race Track Not Street spring series
Junior dragster at opening day of Race Track Not Street spring series

Among the attendees at the April 9 race was 8-year-old Jason Dobrie and his family. Jason drives a race car that his father used to race when his father, also Jason Dobrie, was a child. When asked what his favorite part about racing was, Jason said he liked to have fun and go as fast as he can. He said he wants to be a race car driver when he grows up.

“It makes me proud,” his mother Ashley Dobrie said. “We asked him if he wanted to do it and he said ‘yeah’ and he loved it. … All of the family comes. We hang out. His dad drove this car and I used to watch him when we were 15 and 16. Now to see him race it, it is awesome.”

The Race Track Not Street series will return for its summer series in August at Calverton Executive Airpark, 4062 Grumman Boulevard, Calverton.

Town of Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone attended the first Race Track Not Street drag race of the season.
Race Track Not Street in Calverton

Race Track Not Street Schedule

Summer Series:
August 20, 21, 27 and 28
September 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11

Fall Series:
September 24 and 25
October 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16

For more info about Race Track Not Street schedule, admission and policies, visit racetracknotstreet.com.

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